One People, One Commonwealth rally denounces white supremacy as some renew call to remove Jefferson Davis statue in Capitol

08/16/2017 04:55 PM

FRANKFORT — Dozens gathered to denounce white nationalism and, at times, call for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue in the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, a demonstration in response to the eruption of violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The One People, One Commonwealth rally started with a moment of silence for Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman killed after a car barreled into a group of counter-protesters, and H. Jay Cullen and Burke Bates, two Virginia state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the unrest, before speakers — a mix of Republicans, Democrats and community activists — took turns speaking out against racism and asking for the statue of the Confederate president to be moved off Capitol grounds.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, condemned leaders who she said empowered bigotry, adding that true unity requires more than a rally.

“We cannot claim unity when you only stand with us on days like today,” she said. “We cannot claim unity when you see injustice and you do nothing. We cannot pretend to be unified when good people are silent in the face of hate. The indifference being shown by our leaders is sickening.”

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, was among the most forcible in calling for Davis’ likeness to be removed from the rotunda and placed instead in a museum.

He said he looked forward to the day when he could bring his biracial nephews to the Capitol and not have to explain why the president of the Confederacy holds a place of honor in the statehouse. The Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission determined in 2015 not to remove the statue but instead add context to Davis’ role in history.

Schroder said his nephews “wouldn’t have been welcome in Jefferson Davis’ house as anything other than servants.”

“In fact, he would have called them inferior and even savages, so how do I explain as a leader of this state why Kentucky continues to honor someone who wouldn’t have accepted them as equals and who led the fight against their freedom?” Schroder said.

“Some people say this statue is a sign of history and as a historical marker belongs here,” he continued. “I disagree. Because of its historical context it belongs in a museum, not in a place of honor. The rotunda is reserved for those who built our commonwealth up and made it stronger, not for those who tried to tear it apart.”

Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, didn’t call for the Davis statue’s removal but said more monuments honoring Union forces should be built in Kentucky, noting that there are only a few such monuments compared to those for Confederate forces in the state.

“More Kentuckians shed blood and volunteered for the Union than volunteered for the Confederacy,” he said.

Jordan Harris, founder and co-executive director of the Pegasus Institute, organized the rally and said he would like to see Davis’ statue moved to a museum and replaced with a statue of Louisville-born boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, calling on the historic properties commission to reconsider its 2015 decision to retain the Confederate president’s statue in the Capitol rotunda.

Harris said President Donald Trump “could have been stronger” as he responded to the weekend violence in Charlottesville and affixed blame to both sides of demonstrators.

“The two sides in Charlottesville are not created equal,” he told reporters after the event.

“If one side is holding the flag of a country which we went to war with and fought against and holding up the ideals of white supremacy, it is not equal to the side that is there to be a force of unity, that is there to say that we stand against these things, and so that’s one thing that I hope that emerges from this, and I think that you heard that from speakers on both sides today.”

Others who spoke at the rally include state Treasurer Allison Ball, former Secretary of State Trey Grayson and former Treasurer Jonathan Miller.


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